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Posted 1:07 pm
February 15, 2014
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Cinema speaker series will feature screenwriter Michael Grais

SF State will get a little taste of Hollywood when screenwriter Michael Grais comes to campus to speak about the profession’s evolving presence in the city.

Grais is set to speak from 5:15 – 7:55 p.m. on Feb. 13, at Coppola Theatre. He is the first featured guest in a three-part speaker series hosted on campus by Julian Hoxter, a cinema assistant professor .

Hoxter is the screenwriting coordinator for the cinema department and put together similar series in the past, but said this is the first time that a workshop has been added. The workshop is a 1-unit class taught by Grais Thursday, Feb. 13, but the class is full.

Grais wouldn’t disclose too many details of his talk, but Hoxter seems confident that the audience will enjoy the writer’s insight.

“Michael is funny and opinionated,” Hoxter said. “He has very direct views on screenwriting in Hollywood.”

Grais began writing in the sixth grade. He attended New York University film school for three years, and later received his master’s degree in fine arts at the University of Oregon.

He has co-written and produced hit-movies, such as “Poltergeist” and “Poltergeist II,” “Cool World,” “Great Balls of Fire” and “Marked for Death.” His television series credits include “The Immortal,” “Visitors from the Unknown” and the Internet series “The Promised Land.”

Grais said one of his favorite works remains to be his first, the 1975 detective series “Baretta,” which was his first writing job in the business.

Another easy choice for Grais is naming a favorite writer of his: Oliver Stone.

“I admire and respect the films he has made as they are not only great films and screenplays, but many have dealt with issues that no-one else was getting on the big screen,” said Grais.

Grais’ advice for students wanting to pursue a screenwriting profession is to, simply put, treat everyone with a high level of respect. This is something he said he wishes he had been told starting out.

“Treat everyone as if they’re going to be an executive sometime, no matter what level they’re at,” Grais said.

The speaker series is sponsored by The CSU Entertainment Industry Initiative, which seeks to connect CSU campuses and students with the entertainment industry. Scott Patterson, BECA professor and executive director of the initiative, said one of its focuses is to increase awareness and pride among students and alumni for their achievements, and that the screenwriting series exemplifies this mission.

“A series of masterclass is an excellent example of increasing that connectedness,” Patterson said.

Next in the speaker series following Grais will be Sam Hamm‘s talk on the pleasures and pitfalls of genre screenwriting Thursday, Feb. 20. Concluding the series will be Pamela Gray on writing the female-centered screenplay Thursday, March 6.

Hoxter said positive feedback from students about previous screenwriting events led him to coordinate this current series, which he believes students will enjoy.

“We felt that it was time to take it to another level as they say and to really try and put a coherent series together that students could benefit from,” he said.